Now that all major parties have designated their top candidates for the EU’s top job -the exception being ALDE, who intend to nominate a lead team at a campaign launch event in Berlin on February 9 – New Europe wonders what turn the campaigns will take.
The congress stage was dominated by inner-party deals and workings. It was the stage at which parties look inwards. Their members and their most loyal constituents are the ones they have to convince. What follows is the most challenging part. The parties will have to open up to society and to their voters.
Not only will they have to listen to those voters to understand their concerns, they will also have to offer real, deliverable solutions to real problems.
New Europe has yet to see any of the latter in a way that could reach an audience of a larger scale that goes beyond the EU Quarter in Brussels. To generate a debate engaging enough that will resonate with citizens, the parties will have to identify the very same concerns that Europeans are confronted with in their daily lives.
No mechanism exists to channel the distant political leadership, especially at the EU level. Moreover, finding answers to those questions means facing hard truths that have to be told, explained, and tackled in a manner that is inclusive enough to create a legitimate movement or, at the very least, maintain social peace.
That is when politicians stumble.
At best, electoral thinking extends to four or five-year terms. In other words, it doesn’t outlast the electoral cycle. However, the main issues remain. Any temporary solution to migration -such as the current deal with Turkey – will not last long enough to exonerate the current political class. Nor will any provisional fix, such as a pre-electoral handout, address growing inequality.
A structural change needs political courage, which means political risk. The time for that is now. Otherwise, as observed in France, the grace period between promise and disappointment significantly shortens. It will not catch up with the next political class but with the same generation of politicians that have set it in motion. Campaign teams should keep that in mind.